“Courtesan”, “geisha”

Emerging in the Classical Period, and still prospering in the Decadent Period, hetairas are professional courtesans. Most work in hetairons.

Although her sexual favours are often available to an acceptable partner for the right price, an hetaira is an entertainer rather than a whore (though many whores call themselves hetairas). She will be a capable musician, well educated, a good conversationalist, attractive, and, ideally, capable of adapting herself to the different requirements of her clients. Her job is to provide agreeable company at a symposium or less formal party.

Early in the Classical Period the hetaira Aspasia demonstrated that a woman was capable of handling her own affairs to advantage and holding her own at the most intellectual conversation. She set a fashion for female company which contributed to a considerable improvement in the status of women.

At the beginning of her career, an hetaira will play music, sing, and dance for the entertainment of the clients of an hetairon, or the guests at a symposium in a private house, and will fetch and carry. Later, she will wait on the clients and guests, and take a minor part in their party. It is in these early phases that an hetaira is most likely to have to sell her sexual favours. Once she is sufficiently accomplished, she will gradually take her place as companion of one of the members of a party, then, if she is talented, as mistress of ceremonies for parties. This is the pinnacle of her career, and she may be a very fashionable, though never quite respectable, figure in society.

Etiquette is that a hetaira is not paid cash by her clients, though they might indeed pay the owner of the hetairion for the meal they enjoy there. Instead, the client sends a gift to the hetaira the following day. These gifts often consist of practical necessities, or are readily converted to cash at the //hetaira's convenience.

Copyright © 1991 by Brett Evill. All rights reserved.